As competition mounts in the online TV market, expectations of a bloody battle for dominance are rising. However, such hyperbolic language does not reflect the realities of the market. Yes, some services will rise, and some will fall, but multiple participants will remain.
The impending release of Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, and Peacock has unleashed a chorus of insiders forecasting a “bloodbath” in the streaming world. For example, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley told NBC News:
“We think that’s going to be a sea of blood. It’s going to be losses for many years to come for many of those companies who are going to be engaged in a major share battle.”
The impression such language leaves is that only the largest, hardiest, grittiest companies will tough it out, and one will emerge as the dominant service. The idea seems to be that just as Amazon outlasted all other e-tailers and came to dominate the market, so too will Disney, Netflix, or some other media giant achieve the same feat in SVOD. Is this necessarily so?
People comfortable with multiple services
New data from Manatt-Vorhaus suggests there is room for more than one giant SVOD player. The company ran a survey in July of 2,007 U.S. adult online consumers, of which 74% watched online video at least once every month. The survey asked these online video viewers how interested they would be in a new $10.00 a month service looking a lot like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock. Two-in-five indicated they would be interested or very interested in these services. Two-thirds of 18-34-year-olds said the same.
It is essential to keep in mind the context of the answer given by these online video viewers. Most already subscribe to at least one SVOD service. The survey data shows that 74% of online users subscribe to at least one SVOD service. 59% have Netflix, 41% Amazon Prime Video, and 32% have Hulu. The survey report claims that the average online video viewer is willing to buy another 1.6 paid online video services beyond what they already have.
In other words, many people say they are comfortable subscribing to two of the four new significant services to be launched in the next several months.
Online video consumption broadening
There are plenty of other signs one company won’t emerge from the “bloodbath” victorious. People are spending increasing amounts of their viewing time with free services. Of course, YouTube remains the market leader, with 67% of online video viewers using it at least once a week. However, services focused on mainstream content are also growing fast. The venerable Crackle is used by 8%. Moreover, new FAST services Pluto TV and TubiTV have already found a substantial audience (7% and 6% respectively.)
Is the competition between Netflix, Disney, and others going to be fierce? No doubt. That said, perhaps those expecting a bloodbath have been binge-watching Game of Thrones on HBO Now a little too much. In SVOD, there will not be a single ruler of the seven kingdoms!
Why it matters
With premium providers piling into the SVOD market, insiders a forecasting a grand battle with a bloodbath to follow.
The implication is that a single provider will emerge to completely dominate the space.
However, consumers are willing to subscribe to several services and will continue to embrace free ad-supported content providers too.
 Mark Ritson also had similarly gory imagery in his piece “The streaming wars will be the bloodiest battle in marketing history.”